For the first time in recent years, this year’s holiday movie season may end up offering more high quality films than those released during the summer.
This winter, both major franchise and independent films will be competing against each other in the last month of 2011. December is the month that typically sees the most Oscar contenders released, as studios want their films to be fresh on the minds of the Academy Award voters for the final stretch of the year.
Several major filmmakers have pictures coming out this winter, most notably Martin Scorsese, David Fincher and Steven Spielberg. Scorsese’s family film “Hugo” is already in theaters, and has received favorable reception from critics. Spielberg has not one, but two films coming out around Christmas.
Here are five films that should be well worth a trip to the theater for this winter.
The Adventures of Tintin
Spielberg’s first directed film to be released this winter is “The Adventures of Tintin,” which will be released on Dec. 21. After Spielberg’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” hit theaters in 1981, a critic compared the film to the European “Tintin” comic strips. Spielberg’s work has come full circle, as early reviews for “Tintin” are calling it Spielberg’s most exciting film since “Raiders.”
“The Adventures of Tintin” is a major collaboration between Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy). The film follows the young titular reporter Tintin and his globe-trotting adventure in search of a lost treasure. “Tintin” is Spielberg’s first directed animated film, as it was filmed using motion capture and has an animated style akin to “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf.” Spielberg and Jackson foresee this as the first film in a trilogy, where Jackson would direct the second and the third as a possible co-direction between the two masterful filmmakers. “Tintin” should offer relentless action that will be sheer entertainment for all ages.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
A Swedish adaptation of the “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was made in 2009, and was considered a success from loyal fans of the best-selling novel. Producer Scott Rudin was smart enough to know there could still be a major market for an American remake, and brought on the brilliant David Fincher (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network”) to direct.
The trailers for “Dragon Tattoo” have been loud, fast paced and visually arresting. Fincher is one of the best active directors in creating an uncomfortable mood for a film, and it certainly appears he has done it again with “Dragon Tattoo.” The tagline “The feel bad movie of Christmas” says everything potential audience members need to know – the film will be violent and disturbing, but will be one heck of a ride. “Dragon Tattoo” will be released on the same day as “Tintin,” Dec. 21.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
The first two installments of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise were perfect examples of style over substance. Both films were sporadic and filled with over-the-top action without a sense of story.
“Mission: Impossible III,” however, took a different approach than the first two films. Director J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Star Trek”) firmly believes that a film or television series is nothing without strong characters. He made the third film more about these interesting characters than about the gadgetry and explosions. While Abrams is not directing the fourth installment, “Ghost Protocol,” he supervised over the script writing process and remained on as an executive producer.
Brad Bird (“The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille”) is making his live-action directorial debut with “Ghost Protocol.” Like Abrams, Bird likes to focus his stories on the characters. His animated features were outstanding technical feats, but are most memorable due to their emotional impact and intelligent narratives. The look and cast of this new film are both impressive, and “Ghost Protocol” has a good chance of being the action hit of the winter. “Ghost Protocol” gets a theatrical release on Dec. 21 as well, but can be seen on IMAX screens on Dec. 16. Those who see the film in IMAX will be privileged with the special treat of seeing the opening sequence to next summer’s highly anticipated “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The British production “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” may be a key player at the Oscars this year, like “The King’s Speech” in 2010. Adapted from the novel by the same name, the film version looks to be an intense political thriller akin to Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Conversation.” With an outstanding cast led by Gary Oldman, Oscar-winner Colin Firth, John Hurt and Tom Hardy, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” will be sure to feature memorable performances. Based on the novel, the film will likely be a thought-provoking story that will reflect contemporary political issues. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” will arrive to theaters on Dec. 9.
Steven Spielberg has used the phrase “one for them and one for me” in years where he has directed two films. He first accomplished this feat in 1993 with the release of “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List.” “Jurassic Park” wowed audiences and was a blockbuster smash, while “Schindler’s List” represented the maturity in Spielberg as a filmmaker as he offered one of the most impressive cinematic feats in history with the harrowing tale set during the Holocaust. The “one for them” is a crowd pleaser and the “one for me” is a film Spielberg has a deep personal connection with that he wishes to present on screen.
“The Adventures of Tintin” is the 2011 version of the “one for them” and “War Horse” is the one for Spielberg. Set in the backdrop of World War I, “War Horse” follows a young boy and his horse as they survive in the war torn European theater. The cinematography of this film seen in the trailers looks beautiful, with wide shots of the European landscape and the countless soldiers spread throughout. “War Horse” can be seen on the big screen beginning on Christmas day.
Kevin Romani can be reached at [email protected]